When Vegan Pizza Land’s co-owner William Meyer started making pizzas out of his apartment in late spring 2021 — during “ramp season,” as he put it — he wanted to show the Pioneer Valley what good vegan pizza was, while using local ingredients from his community-supported farm.
“We do try to cook with the seasons as much as possible,” Meyer told MassLive.
Still working with local farms, Meyer is opening, with his co-owner, Michael Cook (a former customer who began working with Meyer in April 2022), a permanent spot for their business in the beer garden of Abandoned Building Brewery in Easthampton.
The pizza business’ grand opening was Thursday. Its business’ hours are Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m., Friday from 4 to 9 p.m., Saturday from 2 to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 8 p.m.
Despite Vegan Pizza Land’s success, Meyer said he didn’t necessarily have a business model. Taking orders through Instagram during the pandemic, Meyer spent long hours in his apartment kitchen preparing all of the pizza ingredients himself, sometimes into the morning — from the sourdough base to the cashew cheese to the sauces and toppings.
Customers would line up outside his house as he brought down their orders, just to run back inside to start the process over again.
Over time, more people started hearing about his pizza, making Vegan Pizza Land untenable without a “commissary kitchen,” which is rented cooking space.
His business shifted, moving from apartment-style pickups to pop-ups — and his customer base followed.
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Meyer eventually enlisted the help of a few friends to help out. The business now has five part-time helpers and up to seven people who join semi-regularly. Meyer and Cook have been working out of Small Oven Bakery’s kitchen for the past year to prepare for their pop-ups.
“A lot of restaurant owners are like, ‘There’s a labor shortage,’ or they can’t find help, and that has not been my experience,” Meyer said. He told MassLive that his employees start at $17 an hour, excluding tips, and go up from there.
The pizza business has traveled to music festivals, breweries, art exhibits and museums, among other venues, to sell his vegan fare, traveling out of his Western Massachusetts base to as far as Worcester and New York. No matter the location, it hasn’t been unusual for Vegan Pizza Land to sell out of their pies.
Despite serving only vegan pizzas, Cook estimates up to 40% of their customer base isn’t vegan.
In the process, the pizza business developed partnerships with local merchants, running regular pop-ups, such as first Fridays of the month at The Upper Bend in Turners Falls.
One of its regular pop-up spots has been at Abandoned Building Brewery.
After two years of business, Meyer and Cook decided it was time to settle down. Although they thought about opening a permanent storefront, the costs of doing so were too high. Instead, the vegan duo approached Matt Tarlecki, Abandoned Building Brewery’s owner, about creating a permanent space in the brewery’s beer garden.
“It’s very vibey back here. They got plenty of picnic tables for outside seating, and like, plenty of indoor seating,” Meyer said. “It was just like a no-brainer to make this happen.”
The pizza co-owners bought a 1967 “Summer of Love” Airstream trailer from a friend of a friend, a trailer that already has had two businesses run out of it, one in Philadelphia and another in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Although the grand opening was on Thursday, the pizza business already had its soft opening on May 20. The event was less than easy, however, with hour-and-a-half wait times, 90 orders (sometimes with three or four pizzas in one order) and a heavy rain storm banging on the trailer.
“It was like a waterfall of orders, and it was pouring out here,” Cook said, describing how their friend Joe had to run back and forth between the trailer and the brewery carrying pizzas under his umbrella.
The two said the rainy soft opening prepared them for Vegan Pizza Land’s grand opening, which spurred them to limit online orders and opt for more in-person ordering.
Meyer is ready to admit, however, that it might take some time to adjust to being open full time and making pizzas out of the trailer.
“We know how to make pizza, but just, you know, figuring out how to sort of, like, manage the flow of working in a small space like a trailer for, like, a big space like ABB (Abandoned Building Brewery) is just something that (we), you know, still have to kind of navigate a little bit,” Meyer said.
Cook pointed to a scar on his arm as proof of the trailer’s tight space.
“It’s like a whole dance of, like, ‘Move your arm up!’” Cook said, laughing.
Although Vegan Pizza Land now has a home base, the business still plans on having pop-ups, which it will continue to advertise on its Instagram and website.
While the new Easthampton site will focus on pizza, offering margherita, marinara and two specials, in addition to bar snacks and baked items from local pastry chef Maggie Bear (who runs an Instagram account called Vegan Bakies), its co-owners are looking forward to jazzing up the selections of food at pop-ups, offering items such as their fan-favorite grinders.
Cook and Meyer also might be bringing Korean or Mexican fare during Abandoned Building Brewery’s trivia nights, the duo said.
“It sounds corny, but it’s like, you know, when people say they cook with love, it’s like really a thing. You can, like, taste that when people put their time and effort into something, you know, so that’s like the vibe we’re going for — just, like, good food,” Cook said.